A Message from the Head of School • July 15, 2020
Dear Park Parents,
I hope this message finds you well — coping with the ongoing challenges and, I trust, able to enjoy some summer moments with your family. It certainly is a summer like no other, and the Park administrative team, faculty, and staff are preparing for a school year like no other. In my message today, I will share with you some of our plans for the 2020–21 academic year and our return to campus. We move forward with these plans eager for the opportunity to come together, fully understanding that we will be adapting to a number of changes to campus life, and prepared to be flexible in light of the uncertainty ahead.
Please know that this is the first of several communications about our reopening plans.
This Friday, expect to hear from your principal(s) with further information pertaining to each specific division, as well as important plans addressing student technology needs for both on-campus and remote learning.
An August 7 letter will provide greater detail concerning procedures, class schedules, protocols, and contingencies. We will include, for example, the processes for drop off and pick up; homeroom and advisory assignments; and answers to frequently asked questions. We will share, too, expectations for all Park families as we prepare for the start of the new school year.
I am grateful for the ongoing counsel provided by our Return-to-Campus Advisory Group. In particular, thank you to Tom Inglesby, M.D., Director, Center for Health Security of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health; Brian Garibaldi, M.D., Director, Johns Hopkins Biocontainment Unit; and Beth Blauer, Executive Director, Johns Hopkins University Centers for Civic Impact. Tom, Brian, and Beth, all of whom are parents of current Park students, are helping us navigate a very complex situation with a keen interest in, and understanding of, our community. Many other members of the parent community have shared expertise, insights, resources, and questions — thank you. Open communication and a strong partnership with our parents is, and will be, an essential component in realizing the potential in this coming year.
With the guidance provided by our advisory group, divisional teams composed of administrators, faculty, and, in our Upper School, a student representative, have been working over the last several weeks to build models for on-campus learning. The models work within the safety parameters published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and prioritize the developmental stages and social and emotional needs of students, each division’s structure and classroom spaces, the principles of progressive education, and The Park School Mission. Below, I highlight the general outlines of each division’s plan and address some of the larger questions and concerns that might be on the minds of our families.
THE START OF SCHOOL
The first day of school is Wednesday, September 2. In our August 7 mailing, we will provide more information about any orientation activities and pre-opening programming for students and families — both virtual and in person — as well as plans for what our opening days of school will look like. We are particularly mindful of the need for support for our students and families during this transition back to campus.
We have considered carefully the social and emotional benefits our youngest students derive from being together, in person, with their teachers and have finalized a plan that accommodates all students every day on campus.
Lower School students will spend five days a week on campus — 8:30 a.m.–3:15 p.m. Classes will be divided into smaller cohorts, and students will remain in these cohorts when they are inside the building throughout the day. Each homeroom will utilize two dedicated classroom spaces to allow for appropriate physical distancing — with a minimum of six feet between each student’s work area. Homeroom teachers will work with a teaching partner who will share responsibility for the two cohorts. Special area teachers will cycle through each student cohort in three-week rotations so as to ensure all special areas (science, Spanish, art, and physical education) will be fully integrated into the Lower School program.
Middle & Upper Schools
We have built schedules that prioritize challenging academic coursework and the importance of fostering student relationships with one another and their teachers. Middle and Upper Schools will blend days of on-campus classes with virtual instruction. All students will be scheduled for five days of curricular and co-curricular programming, with a minimum of two days on campus each week. The academic day, both on-campus and virtual, will be scheduled within the hours of 8:30 a.m.–3:15 p.m., thus allowing after-school participation in athletics, music, and theater.
The Middle School student body will be divided into smaller learning cohorts, with each group coming to school twice per week. On those days when students are not on campus, they will engage in both synchronous and asynchronous learning — with live sessions led by teachers, and independent projects and activities assigned by grade levels. Time will be built into the weekly schedule to meet with teachers, advisors, or counselors, to participate in athletics and ensembles, and, of course, to spend time with friends.
Upper School students will participate in classes on campus at a minimum of two days a week, with time built into the weekly schedule for both curricular and co-curricular programming. Classes will be divided so that appropriate physical distancing can be achieved in every room, and students will be scheduled for both on-campus and virtual classes every week. The weekly schedule will maintain both our core and elective classes as well as our 90-minute blocks, and students will be on campus with their entire grade for academic and social interactions.
HEALTH AND SAFETY
Please find below a number of the steps we are taking to promote health and safety while students are on campus. These guidelines have been developed utilizing CDC recommendations, and in consultation with our Return-to-Campus Advisory Group, the Baltimore County Department of Health (BCDH), and Director of Nursing Services Jan Brant. We will continue to adjust our protocols and practices as required.
Central to our ability to run school safely are the essential components of physical distancing, face coverings, and hand hygiene.
Physical Distancing, Reduced Density, and Decreased Mixing
In classrooms, students will be seated with at least six feet of spacing. With the active guidance of school employees, physical distancing of six feet or more will be supported throughout the buildings, on campus, and on buses.
Movement on campus will be organized in order to reduce mixing of students, and students and teachers in each division will access their area through designated entrances. Interior spaces, including corridors and other common areas, will be designated as either Lower School or Middle/Upper School. Outdoor spaces will also be specified for each division’s use. Signage and active guidance from employees will serve to reinforce boundaries.
Students and employees will be required to wear face coverings while at school. (When outdoors, masks must be worn when physical distancing of six feet or more is not possible.) Cloth face coverings are recommended by the CDC for general use. Signage and support from employees will further help students remember to avoid touching their eyes, nose, and mouth.
Hand sanitizing stations will be available at every building entrance, in classrooms, and at other locations throughout the buildings. Handwashing with soap and water will be required at multiple intervals throughout the day, including at the transition to lunch.
Each member of the community (students and employees) will be required to complete a morning health screening prior to coming to school each day, and all families and employees will signal completion via the Magnus Health online app prior to entering the building or boarding school buses.
Those who have a fever above 99.5º, have flu-like symptoms not associated with allergies, and/or have had contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19 will not be permitted on campus (all CDC guidelines will be followed in this regard).
The Health Suite will have separate areas for well-visits and the treatment/isolation of ill patients. Students, faculty, and staff on campus must contact the School Nurse immediately if they begin to experience COVID-19-like symptoms. The School Nurse will follow all protocols recommended/required by the Baltimore County Department of Health (BCDH).
In the event of a suspected or diagnosed case of COVID-19 in the community, Park will follow the guidance of the BCDH regarding contact tracing and quarantining those who may have been exposed. Affected cohorts, grade levels, and divisions will be contacted and next steps will be shared after consultation with the BCDH.
Cleaning and Disinfecting
Cleaning and disinfecting of door handles, high-touch surfaces, and restrooms will take place throughout the school day. Each classroom will be equipped with cleaning and disinfecting supplies for use following any student transitions, and as needed. Deep cleaning and disinfecting of all areas will take place nightly.
Ventilation and Fresh Air
HVAC systems will operate to optimize air ventilation and the introduction of outside air; air filters will be changed frequently in order to maximize effectiveness under current conditions. Teachers will liberally utilize Park’s abundant outdoor spaces, including designated spaces prepared for classes and other activities.
Extra supplies and equipment will be made available to limit the sharing of items (e.g. art supplies, technology, lab equipment). Items that must be shared will be cleaned and disinfected between uses.
Cafeteria and Lunch
Students and employees will have the option of either purchasing packaged lunches or bringing food from home. Lower School students will eat in their classrooms or outdoors as organized by our staff. Middle and Upper School students will eat in the cafeteria space, in classrooms, in other designated indoor areas, or outdoors — and will maintain physical distancing of six feet or more.
All students must have a water bottle on campus each day; drinking fountains will be used as bottle filling stations only.
Early Drop-off, Extended Day, and After Day
To maintain the safety benefits of small cohorts of students and to ensure that we are able to provide adequate supervision of students while on campus, we will not provide Early Drop-off, Extended Day, or After Day. If we determine we are able to provide these services in a safe way, we will introduce them at a point later in the year.
There will be no Lower School After-School Activities offered to begin the year. Middle and Upper School students will be permitted to remain on campus after the end of the school day only for scheduled music, theater, or athletics programming.
Athletics and PE
While our interscholastic sports leagues, the IAAM and MIAA, have not officially announced the cancelation of the fall sports seasons, Park is not scheduling interscholastic competition for the fall. We recognize that Park’s Athletics and physical education programs are important components of student life and wellness, and we will provide opportunities for safe participation in athletics throughout the year.
Assemblies and Other Large Gatherings
Large gatherings, such as assemblies, will be held virtually. Park’s larger community spaces (Meyerhoff Theater, Blaustein Lecture Hall, etc.) will be used only with restricted capacity, maintaining physical distancing of six feet or more.
Parents and Visitors on Campus
As we begin the year, we will limit any visitors in our buildings, including members of our parent community. All parent programming and parent meetings will be held virtually. During the weekdays, visitors and community members seeking to use Park’s grounds (e.g. dog walkers, joggers) will be prohibited between the hours of 7:30 a.m. and 5 p.m.
Bus interiors will be cleaned/disinfected prior to every trip. Buses will not run at full seating capacity — physical distancing guidelines will be enforced with limited, assigned seats (siblings may sit together). The bus driver and all students will wear face coverings. Windows will be cracked to provide increased ventilation. Hand sanitizer will be available on board all buses.
Please look for a communication from the Park Transportation Department in the coming days that will outline route offerings, including two new proposed routes to serve additional families.
I hope that the information provided above will help families as you begin to prepare for the coming school year. As we finalize plans for on-campus learning, we want to prepare, as well, to support any student who will remain at home because of underlying health conditions. To help us with our planning, we ask that any family that either knows now that their child will not join us for on-campus learning at the beginning of the school year or is considering keeping their child at home, please follow this link to let us know.
If you have questions or concerns about reopening plans, please use this form so that we can continue to gather feedback and can be sure we are addressing matters in future communications. Of course, feel free to reach out to me directly, or, if your question is division-specific, contact your principal.
The senior administrators and I, faculty, and staff all recognize how complex and challenging it is for each of our families to navigate the uncertainty ahead. We are here for you in support of your needs, and are devoted to creating a learning environment that is safe and productive both on campus and at home.
Look for an email from the principals on Friday, and I look forward to sharing additional information with you on August 7.
Head of School